A Tender Tale

Chapter 5:

Potholes and other hidden "surprises."

Ever have an experience where:
You feel like every time you take a step foreward -
Something knocks you back two?

"Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash as we fell into the sun,
And the first one said to the second one there,
I hope you're having fun."
....Paul McCartney

With "the" supply fixed several people had gotten backto their routine tasks - Don Morris testing Multi-Speed RepeaterGear trains. That was his niche. No one - I mean NO ONE coulddo them as fast and consistently accurate as he could.Would have driven me nuts. But that was his thing -- andhe was the best. After we grabbed a cola - and checked the mailbox - we were getting ready to go on up to Anderson - when someonerealized I hadn't been there all day. "Hey - you haven'theard - have ya?" "Guess not - what?" "You'reon the list!" "What list?" "THE list man-you made it!" One of the other guys chimed in: "Well,probably - you're on the selectee list - but you're real highup - so you probably will get rated." They were right. ApparentlyI hadn't done just "OK" on that exam - I'd blitzed it!
Sure enough July 16, 1974 I received my appointment to ElectronicsTechnician First Class. E6. PAY RAISE! My thoughts drifted backto that morning in the chief's "office." In reality- and in hind sight - I shouldn't have been rated. I was too young.Still didn't have the mouth under control. And now that I AM asenior Petty Officer of the Fleet (WOW!) - a much higher standardof conduct would be expected. But for the moment - I had accomplishedthat "not easy" task. I had stood up to a real challenge- and met it. And I AM a senior Petty Officer.

"So I'd like to know where, you got the notion -
Said I'd like to know where, you got the notion:
To Rock the Boat! (Don't Rock the Boat, baby!)
Rock the Boat! (Don't tip the Boat over!)
Rock the Boat! (Don't Rock the Boat, baby!)
Rock the Boat----!"
....The Hues Corporation.

As I noted earlier - One of my favorite niches I had become good at was in getting stable platforms from the warehouse on the pier (or in one caseHawaii!) to a boat when needed. That sounds easy - and mostof the time - it was just a matter of running over to the warehouseon the pier - presenting the paper-work - and then getting itmoved by forklift to the crane on the pier, and either up to theO-2 deck on the Proteus to be fork-lifted to one of the Boat andAmmo cranes - and then onto the deck of the boat - or sometimesthat route wasn't available - so the pier crane would put thehat into a mike boat - which would run the hat to the boat - andthe missile crane would put it on deck for us. I had gotten realgood at that - to the point that everyone just assumed that I'dtake care of it - and I did. I got real good at it - one daytoo good. Seems a boat had come in for refit - and we suspectedthat one of the "hats" was going bad. Haden and Moneyhunwanted to change it right away - but the boat's on-coming navigatornixed that - thinking he could get it in specs with calibrationruns.

ET1 Haden keeping me on my toes. Note the permanently attached coffee cup - definitely chief material!

Well they went out on a shakedown - and we get the message theygotta have a "hat" and they sail in x hours. And letme tell you - Boomers don't sail late. Period. At least not thatI ever heard about - and none of us wanted to have anything todo with a boat being late. Nope. not a chance. So I was handedthe requisitions by the supply PO (Ron Ippolito) and I zippedover to the warehouse - drew the hat (the "hat" comesin a container - that looks like an oversized 55 gallon drum)-

SINS Console
A "hat" - (stable platform) - mounted in it's binnacle. This is how they are installed in the boats - inside a climate controlled - sealed binnacle. This platform is complete - with all of it's components installed - The round pineapple shaped thing on the left side of the platform is one of the gyros - the cluster of three cans on the right are the accelerometers

and got a forklift and ran it down to the pier. The pier craneoperator was ready to pick it up and put it in a Mike boat thatwas tied up right beside the ship - but no one was in the Mikeboat! Hmmmm.... Well - I zipped over into the Mike boat and gotthe crane operator to put the hat box in the front of the boat....still no crew. What the heck - this thing can't be too hard todrive..... where's the key. Hmmm. there's the start button [press]- Geez - left it in gear - let's see - throttle you turn -- pullback for reverse - middle neutral -- "I think I got it -untie me!" some other sailors had noticed my activity andwere staring down from the pier - "Are you nuts?" --"Yeah probably - cut me loose..." "OK - it's yourass---" Actually for being totally out of my league - I didpretty good - well --- at least I didn't hit anything. That thingwanted to go ANYWHERE but the direction I wanted to go... I finallymanaged to get all the way around the Proteus - (Thank goodnessthere wasn't a boat on the starboard side where I started from- it took me a couple thousand feet just to get it going straight!).I pulled up next to the boat the Hat was for - and tied it upwith help from a couple of the boat's crew. The Proteus' missilecrane is this huge X-Y yard crane that was built in somethinglike 1928. And it is up pretty high - The crane operator knewI was going to need a lift - and had been waiting and watchingall along - just sure I was going to sink. He slid the crane overto us - dropped his auxiliary hook and lifted the container tothe sub's deck. I guess it was about this time the Mike Boat'screw discovered SOMEONE STOLE OUR BOAT! Needless to say - therewas a bit of a buzz as that word spread around the ship - Wannarace the fastest thing in the Navy? Just start a rumor on thefantail of a Navy ship - and try and beat it to the bow ---- you'lllose every time! By this time - I had run the Mike boat back towhere I had "borrowed" it from .... I was getting prettygood by this time I actually managed to go in a straight linerather than the "Zigzag" of the trip over.... Just asI finished tying it up - a couple of deck department types showedup - a bit red in the face -- "Just what the ____ do youthink you're doing?" the coxswain demanded. I just shruggedand said it was a nice day for a cruise... they weren't too appreciativeof my smart-mouth - but I outranked them - so they just grumbledsome unprintable observations about me and my ancestry. As I Salutedthe flag coming up the gang plank back on board the Proteus -the Officer of the Deck called me over and asked if I was theone that "stole" the Mike boat. "No Sir - justborrowed it." "Uh-huh - the Chief Boatswain wants tosee you in the deck office - now." I could tell bythe shouting coming through the closed door as I walked up thatthe Deck Chief wasn't having the best of days... but all thingsconsidered - he was pretty nice: He just explained to me thatmy unauthorized use of the Mike boat was a no no - and that ifI did it again he would be very upset. I assured him I now realizedthat I had acted foolishly in my zealous effort to get my jobdone. I don't know if he totally bought it - but 1) I did getout of his office in one piece - and 2) I didn't ever again eventhink about "borrowing" the Mike boat...

Just about the time I was getting comfortable again - my worldtook another jolt. I had really worked on my attitude - mouthwas under more control - to the point that I was considered areasonably well behaved E5. Suddenly - what was acceptable behavioras an E5 was woefully short as an E6. Sheesh. My evaluation marksbefore were pretty good - this time - I got clobbered! Equallyupsetting was that now people seemed to be more concerned withhow good I was with paper work, and other administrative things.I liked the pay raised - but this other stuff sucked! Well - itwasn't' as bad as it seemed at first. And as time went along -I did manage to fit into my new roll better.

"A little light shinin' through the window-
let's me know ev'rything's alright -
Summer Breeze makes me feel fine,
Blowin' through the Jasmine in my mind."
....Seals and Crofts

As a First Class Petty Officer - I was not only expected to domore - but there were times that the new rank was reason for reapingsome rewards as well. Every-so-often the Proteus did go to sea- sometimes because a Typhoon was coming - and it's a good ideato get out of the way... other times to dump effluent - and ingeneral sharpen our "at sea" skills. Still assignedto CIC as my "Sea and Anchor" Station, when I heardwe were to put out - I decided to check with the CIC supervisor to see about watch schedules, training and so on. Oops. He had gotten orders a few weeks back - and was gone. So I called the Navigator to see what was going on. He told me that they had just selected the replacement - some guy named Guttery from W5. At first - I was somewhat elated - WOW for all intents and purposes - at sea - I would be the CIC officer. Whoa... that also means I am responsible for CIC. Getting watch standers assigned, and since some (most) will have never stood a CIC watch - I have to train them. Oh Crap! that means I've gotto make sure that I've got people that can plot on every watch...Since I'll take one section - I've got to have three more plotters...And I've got three days... The enormity of the situation sweptover me like a tidal wave. You wanted it - you got it! You justthought you wanted it! No- I really did. I really thought I coulddo a good job with CIC - but I guess I thought I'd be able to"ease" into it - now it was do or die in three days.I met with my division officer who allowed me to draw 4 peoplefrom our division for watches - Repair R4 gave me 4 more - I needed3 more - the Fire Control repair shop gave me those. I now hadthe 12 people I needed - counting myself. The Navigator arrangedfor us to use one of the meeting rooms in officer's country forour training. He was super. He supported me in every way. WhenI walked into the room for the first training session -the 11 people that I had gotten "volunteered" were there - butthere were also a couple of Officers as well. I didn't think much ofit at the time - I was concentrating on getting my people ready- because we had three hours today - and three hours tomorrow- then it's for real - we'd be at sea!

Our outing was pretty un-eventful. My watch standers did a goodjob - fortunately we only saw (on RADAR) a small handful of shipsthe whole time we were out - and we were always ready with a recommendedcourse to maintain the 10 mile buffer the Captain had orderedbe maintained. The only glitch was during the last night out.Someone came and woke me up about 2:30 that morning - saying therewas a problem in CIC - that the RADAR operator had requested thesupervisor immediately. Arriving at CIC there was my RADAR watch stander- standing OUTSIDE the door. "What the hell are you doingout here?" I demanded as I approached. He just pointed inthe door. There were those two officers - the two that had satin on the training session - both bent over the scope - and twistingevery knob on both the PPI AND - more seriously - they had theRADAR remote panel open - and kept cranking up the crystal current.That is an EXCELLENT way to burn out a detector crystal - andleave you blind as a bat. Worse. We didn't have SONAR. "Just what the hell are you doing?" The look on the faces of those two was worth any punishment my "impertenance" might have purchased. They looked like two little kids caught elbow deep in the cookie jar. Realizing I had run mouth before brain again -I decided to take the offensive and see if I could salvage thesituation. "Would you two please step outside with me fora moment?" I motioned towards the door to the weather deck.They looked at each other, then got up and we went outside. Whenwe reached the weather deck (out of earshot of anyone - orso I thought) I again asked the question - this time a littlemore politely: "Sirs - may I ask why you are interferingwith my watch standers? - and by whose authority are you tamperingwith the RADAR?" Well the "tamper" word was enoughto start one of them talking. He maintained that they were doingnothing wrong - that as officers they could play with the PPIand the RADAR as they wished. I told them that as long as I wasthe CIC officer - they were welcome to observe, but not interferewith my watch standers - and that under no circumstance were theyto touch the RADAR remote. Feeling pretty good about how it wasgoing to that point I decided to press the issue. "As faras I'm concerned at this point - no harm has been done - and I'mwilling to overlook this incident. But please - do not misunderstand- if you tamper with the RADAR again - or interfere with my watchstanders - I will take this up through the Chain of Command."They looked at each other - "I can't believe I'm standinghere getting my ass chewed by an enlisted man." A voice camefrom over our head. THAT voice. Damn! - that man knows everythingon this ship. "Believe it Mister. And if I catch either of you in CICyou'll continue that conversation with me. Is that understood?""Yes sir." both of them saluted towards the voice -it was so dark we never did see him... but his presence was awesome.They took off towards officer's country. I paused a moment - notsure whether to say something to the Captain - I decided justto keep my mouth shut - for once.

Smoke on the Water-
Fire in the Sky!...
 ....Deep Purple

The next morning - we set the sea and anchor detail as we were approaching the island, I wandered into the pilot house - which is one compartment forward of CIC. The captain was talking on the phone - I was a little surprisedto see him here - he liked to be up on the open bridge. It wasobvious he was talking about something very serious - he was reallylooking grim. He hung up the phone and stepped over to the sailormanning the Wheel. "It looks like we may be doing some serious maneuvering here in a little bit - when I give an order - you must execute it instantly - this is really important." The Sailor indicated he understood - and the Captain turned and walked over to me. "You have your best people on watch?" "Yes Sir. The Sea and Anchor watch is present - and I have another man fully qualified on RADAR and Plotting plus myself." "Good... - it looks like the damn Russians are set up to play some "games" this morning - this could get serious." "Anything in particular you want from us?" "Yes" he replied "Just make sure I know where he is all the time - If he gets in under 10 - call it up every minute - under 5 and I want it every 30." be sure you've got someone really cool and clear on the phones." "Yes sir - I'll take care of it." I called the shop and asked them to send a phone talker up. The "Russian" he was talking about was this large fishing trawler that had antennas for fishing poles - like we weren't suppose to notice.
Guess who's the boss...
The Captain on the Bridge
Anyway they hung aroundthe island watching the boomers come and go - try to gather asmuch intelligence as possible. They like to play this game. Inmaritime law - a ship on the right has the right-of-way - so ifyou close on a vessel's course to your left - his right - youcan force him to turn to avoid a collision. The one on the "left"has to turn. What the Phone call was about was that the RussianTrawler was observed taking a position to the SouthEast of theharbor entrance - which means if he heads to sea on a course of320 - 340 - that puts him right across our bow - from the right- we're supposed to turn. Since he is a lot smaller and much moremaneuverable - he can turn around go back and be ready to do itagain long before the Proteus can make a circle and line up forthe harbor entrance again. Well - this is exactly what they did.Of course we'd pick him up on RADAR - pass it to the Bridge. Whenit would become obvious that they would close within our "10mile" buffer - we turned, circled and tried again. We didthis twice. The Captain was getting a bit chafed. Finally- lining up on course once again - the Captain gave the order.Hold this course. Here came the Russian. Sure enough coming rightacross our bow. Only this time the Captain passed the word - we're not going to turn. We started calling up range and bearing every minute - when we closed under 5 miles - every 30 seconds. At first - it seemed the Russian wasn't going to take the hint. Then it became obvious that he had figured out that this 18,500 Tons of war ship coming at him like a runaway freight train wasn't going to turn. Apparently realizing it was too late him to turn off as well, - he did the only thing he could - full speed to get out of our way. At 6200 yards (a little over three miles) - he was dead ahead - but it was becoming clear he had more than enough speed to be well clear... - the Captain ordered the collision alarm to be sounded anyway - just to tweak them - we knew they were close enough to hear it... Several Russian sailors were out on deck - lining the rail - looking us over as the distance between the ships closed. They had pretty good speed - and turned port (west) just as they cleared us - and the two ships passed at about 500 yards... I heard later that they were close enough that we had no trouble exchanging sign language with them. Funny I hadn't realized how universal a sign an extended middle finger was! We proceeded on into Apra Harbor without further incident.

"I can see clearly now, the rain is gone;
I can see all obstacles in my way;
 ....Johnny Nash

As time went on - I learned more about why people did things withoutbeing told. It was something new to me called responsibility.And funny thing - I found myself on all-night jobs - and wouldn'tthink of quitting until it was done. And soon others came torely on me. They trusted me to do the job, do it right; and ontime. One of the greatest pleasures was on a task that took notonly everything I had - but when I stated that the impossiblecould be done - I "volunteered" a shipmate to the taskas well. It was another of those "last minute panics"when a boat discovered within hours of sailing that they neededa repair that took days - not hours - under normal conditions.Seems that there was a problem in one of the SINS wiring harnesses.

SINS Console
Console like the one needing a new wiring harness.

Confronted with the situation - and noting we had just over 24hours - I told my boss that I and Bobby Bishop could change thatharness in time. I knew my own ability - I knew Bobby and trustedhis abilities. Based on that commitment - within an hour - wewere given the green light. The Boat's Navigator was super - heprovided us with whatever we needed - and offered anything withinhis power to do... Bobby - having just come up from the NavCenteron the boat - had noted what the boat was having for dinner -Lobster Thermidor. He told the Navigator - "you just keepus in Lobster -
SINS console
Typical SINS console installed in a boat - The stable platform is what the sailor is leaning back on behind him - very close quarters in the Nav Center!
and we'll change your harness"... I'm tellingyou - I've never seen (nor eaten) so much Lobster - we couldn'tset our cup down that a cook wasn't filling it back up... Andwe hit that console for all we were worth. Frankly ... I don'tremember much about that job - Bobby and I worked extremely wellas a team - we seemed to instinctively know what the other wasdoing - needed - and so on. Bobby had the duty that night -- andat 4AM he had the Quarter Deck Watch.By this time we were well on the way to re-assembly - I was supposedto call someone else to come down when Bobby had to go on watch...but we were so close to being done - I decided to wing it alone.I remember that I was adjusting the last frame / slide unit -getting it level - when Russ Haden poked his head around the corner- and asked how it was going - It was 7:30 - He helped me slidethe electronics drawers back into the console - and by 8:15 -the Boat's crew had the system re-lit and running self-check/calibration.Just under 20 hours - I don't know if that record was ever beaten-and really - in the big picture - it wasn't very important. butat that time - it wasn't that I could do it - or even that I diddo it --- the Pride was in the fact that my shipmates - both supervisorsand peers - trusted my judgment - and ability to deliver againstlong odds.

"Just slip out the back, Jack; make a new plan, Stan;
you don't need to be coy, Roy; just get yourself free!
Hop on the bus, Gus; you don't need to discuss much;
just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free!"
 ....Paul Simon

Back in 1972 - while at Mare Island - the ship had sent me toa "quickie" course on Sperry SINS - the other SINS -the kind that the Ranger got in overhaul - and the kind (at the time)most Fast Attack Submarines had. During the entire time I wasback "on station" - I was the only tech trained on bothsystems - so anytime a Fast Attack came in - and needed SINS help- I was "it". Being "it" had both good andbad sides - usually if a boat had a problem so serious that theirpeople needed help - well it was very serious - and usuallyvery hard to find - and often caused by more than "normalcomponent failure."

SINS installation typical of Fast Attacks
Sperry SINS installation as typically installed on Fast Attack Submarines. The binnacle containing the stable platform / gyros / accelerometers is on the left - the four cabinets on the right are (left to right) the typewriter Input/Output and Tape Reader; the Servo Amp / Electronics cabinet; the SINDAC Computer; and the Data Output Console.

Playing "games" with the Russians was nothing new. As we were seldom at sea - it was rare for us to be involved. The Fast Attack Submarines, on the other hand - played the "game" often. And as our captain had noted - somtimes it can get serious - real serious. One Fast Attack that came in had been playing "games" with "another" boat - The nose was now several feet further aft than when built - requiring some dry-dock time - and someserious repairs to some fragile SINS components that - well let'sjust say they weren't built for that kind of bump. The SperrySINS is similar in function to the Autonetics SINS but the physicalstructure of the stable platform and the gimbals are very muchlike the schematic drawing shown in the SINS chapter (Appendix A) - i.e. the gimbals surround the platform - which is like a small barrel in the center . Theouter gimbal weighs several hundred pounds - and if it is movingfast - you better not get in it's way - it could easily breakfingers - yet it's capable of the required accuracy of fractionsof minutes of degrees - quite an engineering accomplishment. Ifound the Fast Attack's crews to be quite different from the boomers- more like their diesel predecessors. You'd almost have to bea bubblehead to appreciate what I mean by that... But I enjoyedthose occasional diversions - they often provided some interestingexperiences - like the time one of the boats decided to add meto their crew - the boat was in the floating dry-dock (at thetime - one of the largest floating dry-docks was at Apra Harbor,Guam) and I'd gone below to work in the NavCenter. A couple hourslater - I decided to venture topside for a break (actually I wasgoing to go to the Exchange gedunk bar to grab a snack). Uponreaching topside - I found not only weren't we high and dry anymore- but the pointy end was aimed at the open ocean. I quickly askedan officer where they were headed - he kinda shrugged and noddedtowards the harbor entrance. Wrong. On getting back to the Proteus- as I walked up the gang-plank the OOD took one look and asked- "what'd ya do fall off??" "No damn-it - I jumped!"Not knowing what had just happened - he wasn't quite sure whetherto be upset by my rudeness - or what. The sailor who was standingthe Quarter Deck watch happened to know me - and where I'd been--- when he saw me - he busted out laughing ! Don't tell me- youthought they were trying to shanghai you??!! Well since the tugswere just snuggling that particular boat up next to the Proteus- it's obvious I'd been had. And of course in jumping overboard- and swimming in a restricted security area - I'd broken abouta dozen regulations. Got me a free trip to the Captain's Day Cabin.I walked in (after having changed into a dry uniform) expecting- well - I didn't quite know what. The Captain was sitting behindhis desk - and was reading some papers - I figured they were firstdrafts of a whole pile of charges. He started listing off stuff.Violating a security area; leaving a ship without permission;they did at least note that I saluted the flag as I departed.He shuffled the stack of paper again then finally looked up. Afterwhat seemed forever (about 30 seconds, actually) he started laughing."I'd sure like to have seen your face when you thought youwere going out with them! boy - did they get your ass!" Itold him I wasn't sure what was worse - thinking I was going withthem - or finding out they weren't going (right then) after all...The captain allowed how he thought I'd been through enough embarrassmentto make me think next time - before I jumped. Yup - I'd been had- by the best! Submariners. A whole 'nother breed!

Chapter 6:

Table of Contents

© 1997 Common Cents Computers